Le Carré's mix of politics and passion tipped for Bafta sweep

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The Independent Culture

A home-produced film of politics and passion, backed by the National Lottery, has stormed ahead of hotly favoured American rivals in the list of nominations for the star-studded British Academy Awards.

The Constant Gardener, a John Le Carré adaptation starring Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz, is in the running for 10 honours at next month's ceremony in a shift from the blockbuster hits which have dominated for years.

Fiennes, who was overlooked for the Golden Globes, where his co-star won best supporting actress, is the only British male star shortlisted for best lead actor after his restrained performance as a diplomat investigating his wife's sudden death.

Weisz, who plays a woman investigating disreputable pharmaceutical firms in Africa, is joined by Judi Dench, star of Mrs Henderson Presents, in the best actress category.

Fiennes, who is in Dublin rehearsing for a play, said he felt thrilled and delighted to have been nominated with other members of the team. "It was a film that affected everyone when we were shooting in Kenya. It's a two-sided film: it's a love story but it has the political story. The collaboration of Le Carré and Fernando [Meirelles, the director] was really inspired."

Other British stars in the running for honours on 19 February include Brenda Blethyn for Pride and Prejudice, although its star, Keira Knightley, was snubbed by members of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (Bafta) who vote. Other British movies include Mrs Henderson Presents and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which have four nominations apiece. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, pick up a clutch of nominations in visual effects, make-up and costume. But independent American movies - though not the studio blockbusters - dominate the major categories.

Brokeback Mountain, the so-called gay cowboy movie directed by Ang Lee which has just reached number one at the UK box-office, and Crash, a tightly woven exploration of racial tensions, each get eight nominations. Ang Lee said: "The British have always been great to me since The Wedding Banquet. I am especially proud to see Heath [Ledger], Jake [Gyllenhaal] and Michelle [Williams] all be recognised and I look forward to returning to London for the awards in February."

Capote, the film about the writer Truman Capote, has five nominations and the biopic, Walk the Line, about Johnny Cash, received four. Good Night, and Good Luck, written, directed and co-starring George Clooney and based on the true story of the American broadcaster Ed Murrow's opposition to the McCarthy anti-Communist witchhunts, gets four nominations and Clooney gets a further nod for his performance in Syriana.

Duncan Kenworthy, the film producer and Bafta chairman, was asked whether the Hollywood star would be at the ceremony. "I would hope that anyone with one nomination would be there, let alone with four," he said, and praised the "smaller, more interesting, emotional films". He added: "There are 450 films released on British cinema screens each year so to get to the top five is an extraordinary achievement. It's been a strong year for original films."

John Woodward, chief executive officer of the UK Film Council, said: "Lottery-funded films have come out on top again with 19 nominations in this year's Bafta awards, a huge achievement and a testament to the depth of talent we have."

Lottery funds supported The Constant Gardener, Mrs Henderson Presents and also Festival, about the Edinburgh Festival, and Shooting Dogs, a yet-to-be-released drama set in Rwanda.

Nominated for honours

FILM

Brokeback Mountain

Capote

The Constant Gardener

Crash

Good Night, and Good Luck

ALEXANDER KORDA AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING BRITISH FILM OF THE YEAR

A Cock and Bull Story

The Constant Gardener

Festival

Pride & Prejudice

Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Cinderella Man

Crash

Good Night, and Good Luck

Hotel Rwanda

Mrs Henderson Presents

ACTOR

David Strathairn - Good Night, and Good Luck

Heath Ledger - Brokeback Mountain

Joaquin Phoenix - Walk the Line

Philip Seymour Hoffman - Capote

Ralph Fiennes - The Constant Gardener

ACTRESS

Charlize Theron - North Country

Judi Dench - Mrs Henderson Presents

Rachel Wiesz - The Constant Gardener

Reese Witherspoon - Walk the Line

Ziyi Zhang - Memoirs of a Geisha

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